Combustible Celluloid
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With: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy, Gillian Jones, David Field, Tawanda Manyimo, Anthony Hayes, Susan Prior, Nash Edgerton, Jamie Fallon, Samuel F. Lee
Written by: David Michôd, based on a story by David Michôd, Joel Edgerton
Directed by: David Michôd
MPAA Rating: R for language and some bloody violence
Running Time: 102
Date: 06/20/2014

The Rover (2014)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Road to Nowhere

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

David Michod's The Rover is the latest, and one of the best, of a slew of films created by an Australian collective known as Blue Tongue Films. A founding member, Michod previously made the great Animal Kingdom, a complex and densely-layered gangster film with an extraordinary Oscar-nominated performance by Jacki Weaver.

The Rover is almost its exact opposite, a movie so spare that it occasionally calls to mind Mad Max or The Road Warrior. Set in a dystopian future, after a global economic meltdown, Australia has become a catch-all for loners, losers, and criminals of all types.

A quartet of multi-cultured robbers, including a pair of American Southern brothers, botches a job, and the simple-minded, gut-shot Rey (Robert Pattinson) is left behind. While getting away, the robbers make the mistake of stealing a car belonging to Eric (Guy Pearce), who immediately launches into a grim, relentless cross-country chase to get it back. He even goes so far as to save Rey, forcing him to join the quest.

If it doesn't always make sense why Rey would stick around, the movie smoothes out such rough edges with its mesmerizing, disturbing presentation. The pair make some creepy stops along the way, discovering a kindly lady that offers the company of young boys, or a store that sells "tins of stuff and drinks and things."

Communication and dialogue is so infrequent that whenever anyone does speak it sounds profound or even poetic. Rey tells a story about a neighbor he once had that owned eight tractors. Eric asks, "why are you telling me this?" Rey replies, "not everything has to be about something."

Michod gives precious few clues as to what happened to the world, though American money is now preferred over Australian, and the world feels abandoned. One of the movie's few missteps, this futuristic setting sometimes raises stray questions that can distract from the moment at hand.

But a truly unsettling music score by Antony Partos, the baking heat and relentless dust, and even Pearce's weird, diseased-looking haircut, add endless layers to the uncertainty and tension. Joel Edgerton -- better known as an actor (The Great Gatsby, etc.) -- co-wrote this story, as well as the screenplay of an earlier Blue Tongue Film, the crackerjack The Square (2008).

Most of all, The Rover seems rooted in something personal and burning, rather than an attempt to pay homage to the great crime films of the past. The Rover is a terrific crime film for right now.

Lionsgate released a Blu-ray edition, which is very much worth seeing, or seeing again. The movie itself is so bleak-looking that you won't find much to dazzle you in high-def, but there are still many sensations to be had. The disc comes with a 44-minute making-of documentary, and several very good trailers for some of the best movies of recent months. The box cover comes with Quentin Tarantino's breathless quote.

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